An Arquebus
or The plaintive years


Nigel E Fish
D G Talis

  1. I sing of rabbits and the pristine rat,
  2. The uncooked pie did wrily smile and say,

Listen to reading

I sing of rabbits and the pristine rat,
And all the sons that rodents e'er begat
Which fear the coming of the lynx-eyed cat.

I do not sing of aged peas and beans,
Nor yet of artichokes and aubergines:
My words are not of vegetable scenes.

I sing at night, beneath the argent moon
And, though my lays are always out of tune,
I'm better than the baritone buffoon.

I've never sung in keys with many sharps;
I've never warbled to the sound of harps
And never sing, on principle, to carps.

The carp, salubrious fish, I do not love.
I love the orange-purple Hopping Dove;
I love all things that shift around and shove.

My loves, you think perhaps, are strange and odd:
(You do not understand my love for cod);
But you weren't born, I say, in Novgorod.

You didn't spend your youth in silent woods
Where silent elves eat ancient Christmas Puds,
Clad but in velvet ceremonial hoods.

But I, on whom the gods have often spat,
Sit down alone and, to th'unhearing gnat,
Sing songs, sad songs, of rabbits and the pristine rat.

The uncooked pie did wrily smile and say,
"Much have I pondered now on life and death,
For thought is not a pearl that elephants will know,
Nor thoughtlessness a crystal in the snow.
Though many things exist, so many more do not,
That know nor dusky night nor eye-bright day,
Like musky moths that never did give breath
To sullen syllables that ease an insect's lot.
Much have I pondered now on life and death."

Thus saying, to the oven went the pie:
He was a true blue stoic to the last,
(His gut conceived where pomegranates grow
And where the pirate kings their trumpets blow
To lure the mermaids). Thus the pie became
A tiny speck of pastry in the sky,
Grimly remembering his joyful past,
His sweet but fleeting joys, his momentary fame.
He was a true blue stoic to the last.

And he is still remembered 'mong the tribes
That wander o'er the plains of Kazakhstan;
Those lost and weeping peoples do not know
What happiness was found long years ago
When pyres were burning in the mountains, on the plain
Hung heavy silence -- language scarce describes.
Among these tribes it is a Sacred Yarn --
The Holy Pie: its shrine lies near the lane
That wanders o'er the plains of Kazakhstan.

©1973, 1999 The Rat Fathom Poets
Edited by Peter Christian
May 31 2023.